Thomas C. Cardaro, a partner in the Baltimore City law firm of Cardaro & Peek, LLC., served as the 2009-2010 president of the Maryland State Bar Association. He was invited by Chief Judge Robert M. Bell to contribute a guest column for this issue of Justice Matters.

Guest Column - Celebrating Pro Bono

By Thomas C. Cardaro

The Maryland State Bar Association is the voice and the public face of Maryland lawyers. MSBA champions the legal interests of lawyers and the legal interests of Maryland citizens before the Legislature, the Judiciary, the government and the general public. It is my distinct honor and pleasure to serve as president of this dynamic association this year.

MSBA promotes professionalism and civility in the practice of law and serves as a valuable and effective resource to our 23,000-plus volunteer lawyer members, the legal community, the Judiciary and the public. We sponsor public service programs and foster volunteer pro bono service to help those in need.

Our association encourages all Maryland lawyers to answer the call to help those in need by volunteering for pro bono service. Offering pro bono service is part of the fabric of being a lawyer and is truly an integral part of our legal system. Plus, when you help a pro bono client, it gives you such a great feeling inside!

Every year, thousands of Maryland attorneys volunteer their time and expertise to provide free legal services to those in need. In fact, in 2007 (the most recent year for which data is available), more than 1.4 million hours of free legal service was provided by Maryland attorneys to those who would not otherwise have had access to justice. In addition, during the same year, Maryland attorneys contributed more than $3 million to financially support legal services to Maryland’s indigent.

Thomas Cardaro
Thomas Cardaro

In appreciation of such an exceptional outpouring of support to the community, on October 27, 2009, Gov. Martin O’Malley issued a proclamation officially declaring the week of October 25-31 as “Pro Bono Week in Maryland” and honoring the thousands Maryland attorneys who have volunteered for pro bono service.

At a gubernatorial press conference, the Governor and Chief Judge Robert M. Bell recognized and thanked Maryland’s volunteer attorneys, and indeed, there is much to celebrate.

And how did Maryland attorneys celebrate this special week? By volunteering for pro bono service, of course, and many participated in the 15 local pro bono events held in all corners of the state during National Pro
Bono Week.

One shining example of Maryland’s attorneys at their finest is the Foreclosure Prevention Project. Born out of a call by Chief Judge Bell for Maryland’s attorneys to provide pro bono assistance to homeowners in need, the project, sponsored by the pro bono arm of MSBA, the Pro Bono Resource Center, has trained more than 900 attorneys to handle the issues regarding looming foreclosure actions.

These attorneys volunteered for, and received, appropriate training and are now out in the field actually helping hundreds of homeowners who are in need of assistance while facing the loss of their home. Last year these attorneys provided pro bono assistance to thousands of Maryland homeowners facing imminent foreclosure. This is what our Bar does—helps those in need. MSBA members always step up to the plate when called upon. Time and time again, our members answer the call.

Now, as the foreclosure crisis continues, endangering even more homeowners across the state, the Foreclosure Prevention Project and the MSBA are encouraging more attorneys to answer the call and volunteer to help homeowners try to save their homes. Last fall, a number of Foreclosure Solution Workshops were held to provide pro bono homeowner assistance to Marylanders. Notably, one of these workshops was sponsored by U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer.

I am very proud of all of the Maryland lawyers who volunteer for pro bono service. But when realizing that thousands of Maryland attorneys provide pro bono service every year, one must wonder WHY do these attorneys do what they do?

There are several reasons. First, these attorneys understand that providing pro bono service to those in need is a responsibility of this Bar which must be met. To shirk this moral responsibility only serves to undermine the justice system.

Second, attorneys obtain personal satisfaction in helping others. It cannot be denied that it feels good when you are able to help your fellow citizen. Third, pro bono attorneys receive training and experience in new areas of law through their pro bono cases. Attorneys receive just as much as they give when providing pro bono service.

MSBA is grateful for the hard, unheralded work that the thousands of Maryland attorneys have performed for their communities through pro bono service. MSBA, working with the Pro Bono Resource Center, will continue to provide assistance to Maryland’s attorneys to help them better serve the justice system, the community and their clients. I am very proud of Maryland lawyers and I thank each and every one of you for volunteering your time to help those in need.

Update on Pro Bono Efforts to Help Homeowners

This just in from the Maryland State Bar Association:

In the last 20 months, more than 1,000 Maryland lawyers have volunteered to help homeowners facing the loss of their homes due to foreclosure. In the summer of 2008, when the Foreclosure Prevent Pro Bono Project began and Chief Judge Bell appealed to the state’s lawyers to help, the hope was to attract a cadre of 500 lawyers. Today, more than 1,000 trained volunteers have supported more than 1,900 homeowners who needed legal help.